Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Seaford seawatch (18 April 2018)

Wednesday 18 April. With a light SE forecast and frustrated at missing some good seawatches during the previous few days (local sea mist and work) I arrived at Seaford at 06:00 to find JK and BS had recently arrived. We were soon joined on the front row by JM, JMS, SL and NP with JC, NG and others coming later. Only JK and I stuck it out to 12:00 and during our 6 hours I recorded the following flying East: 32 Red-throated Divers, 5 Manx Shearwaters (1@06:32 & 4@07:30), 17 Gannets, 1 Brent Goose, 7 Tufted Duck, a female Long-tailed Duck (tagged onto the end of a close flock of scoter), 278 Common Scoter, 5 Oystercatchers, 29 Whimbrel, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 10 Arctic Skuas (8 dark & 2 pale morphs), 4 Great Skuas, 125 Mediterranean Gulls (5 first-summers, 6 second-summers & 114 adults, most very close, a pair directly overhead), 5 Little Gulls (4 adults, all; distant), 9 Black-headed Gulls, 25 Common Gulls, 105 Sandwich Terns, 14 Commic Terns (6 close birds IDd as Arctic & 2 Common), 3 Little Terns and a single distant unidentified auk. Not the numbers witnessed by others on previous days but decent variety. The Med Gulls were splendid and I don't see Manx or Long-tailed Duck very often so it was definitely worth the early start.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Ring Ouzels and the first Cuckoo (11-15 April)

Sunday 15 April. The forecast light SW didn't look too promising for seawatching so I planned to do my early South Downs Farmland Bird Monitoring Survey on a grid square west of the Burgh. Going out of the front door the wind was southerly but it looked quite murky and concious that it had been foggy for most of the previous day along the coast at Shoreham while sunny inland I decided to stick to the plan. It probably wasn't a great move. I arrived at my starting point near North Stoke and heard a Cuckoo as I got ready. Cookie and I then spent almost three hours walking 3 sides of a triangle, the first two being my survey route and the third what turned out to be a very muddy return. I didn't see the Cuckoo initially but did on returning to the car. Other highlights were 3 Red Kites, 5 Grey and a Red-legged Partridge, 3 Yellowhammers and a paid of Gadwall! I took some poor images of the Cuckoo and accedentally deleted them when home though they were no great loss. We continued on to Greatham where we saw a Willow and heard close Cetti's and distant Sedge Warblers. All rather disappointing.

Saturday 14 April. The fog horn was going for most of the day with very poor visibility along the coast and, in the morning, by the Adur. Megan and I took Cookie up to Mill Hill were we saw Brimstone, Small Tortoishell and lots of Peacock butterflies but a Chiffchaff was the only migrant. A low tide visit to the Adur was frustrating with the ionly notabel bird a presumed Norwegian colour-ringed Greater Black-backed Gull. The airport side footpath is now closed and it wasn't close enough to the footbridge to read. The light was awful from the east bank and the bird soon disappeared.
Small Tortoishell at Mill Hill
Friday 13 April. A visit to Shoreham Fort wasn't quite early enough as I saw the very pale, almost white second-winter (3CY) Iceland Gull flying away east as I arrived. Nothing else was moving and there were no migrants in evidence. Cookie and I moved on to Widewater seeing 7 Great Crested Grebes on the sea and 3 Sandwich Terns flying W. In the afternoon Megan and I took Cookie to Cissbury Ring where we saw at least 6 Ring Ouzels and a smart male Yellowhammer.
two of the Cissbury Ring Ouzels

Yellowhammer at Cissbury
its always been a favourite of mine

Wednesday 11 April. I took Cookie up to Mill Hill where we saw single Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Yellowhammer. A day of chores then made it game over until a quick scan of the Adur from Coronation Green revealed the very pale, almost white second-winter (3CY) Iceland Gull sat on the opposite bank. I'd only been going to the building scociety and had left my camera at home. I regretted doing so even more when it flew and landed in the river alongside the Adur Ferry Bridge where it remained long enough for Cookie and me to walk round and admire it. It then flew back to the riverbank and we left it.
a rather poor effort at digi-binning

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Seaford seawatches (6 and 7 April 2018)

Saturday 7th April. DB and I arrived at Splash Point, Seaford at 06:20 to find ME and JK in situ. We were soon joined by SL, NP, JMS and others with mowst of those mentioned staying to 13:00. During that time I saw the following flying (or swimming in the case of the grebe) east: 110 Red-throated and 3 summer plumaged Black-throated Divers, a summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebe, 31 Gannets, 81 Brent Geese, 5 Wigeon, a Gadwall, 40 Shoveler, male Scaup (just after 09:30 in a scoter flock and initially thoughts were of Garganey although perhaps an aythya hybrid couldn't be excluded it seemed extremely unlikely even if I had seen on at th eother end of the county earlier in the week), female Long-tailed Duck (09:05), 939 Common and 8 Velvet Scoter (the latter in a scoter flock at 08:22), 14 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Dunlin, 3 Curlew, 2 Whimbrel, 20 Arctic Skuas, 4 adult Mediterranean, 29 (mostly adult) Little, 17 Black-headed and 12 Common Gulls, 161 Sandwich and 21 Common Terns, 60 auks of which 9 Razorbills and 2 Guillemots were identified. Also 3 Canada and a Brent and later 2 Egyptian Geese and 10 Carrion Crows came in and headed north. Excellent company and another enjoyable seawatch if not quite up to yesterday's standard.

Friday 6th April.  Witha SE wind forecast DB and I arrived at Splash Point, Seaford at 07:00, a bit later than originally planned, and were soon joined on the arm by SL and a few others. SL stayed to early afternoon and ME arrived at 14:00 having been in Berlin that morning (I initally misheard him and thought he said Birling!). DM, ME and I stuck it out to 18:10. The last couple of hours were generally quiet but a road closure on our route home due to a serious accident and the desire to see 2000 scoter kept us there. During the 11 hours there I saw the following mostly flying (or swimming in the case of the grebes) east: 68 Red-throated and 4 summer plumaged Black-throated Divers, a summer-plumaged Black-necked and 7 Slavonian Grebes (2 then 4 in summer-plumage and one in transitional plumage), 120 Gannets, just 12 Brent Geese, 6 Mallard, 3 Gadwall, 17 Teal, male and female Garganey (at 12:10, presumably the paier seen at Dungeness at 13:30), 31 Shoveler, 2025 Common (my highest ever total) and 5 Velvet Scoter (the latter a 2 and a 3), 10 Red-breasted Mergansers, 4 Grey Plover, 4 Dunlin, a Curlew, 4 Whimbrel, 6 Arctic Skuas, a first-winter Mediterranean, 84 (mostly adult) Little, 19 Black-headed and 35 Common Gulls, 584 Sandwich, 42 Arctic and 194 Common Terns and 200 auks of which 92 Razorbills and 6 Guillemots were identified. I saw 6 Swallows coming in (and missed a few others) and 4 Peregrines flew over as did 2 Ravens. Excellent company and a very enjoyable seawatch, particularly the first hour or so during which time it was hard keeping up with what was flying past.

Tuesday 5th April. I took Cookie to Medmerry feeling the weather wasn't great for seawatching and seawatching not great for Cookie. I'd misremembered where the car park was but soon found it. On the Stilt Pool we saw 63 Avocets, 4 Little Ringed Plovers (acting as 2 pairs), at least 26 Mediterranean Gulls and an aythya hybrid. A quick look at the sea produced 22 Brent Geese, 4 Sandwich and 2 Common Terns making me realise that enjoyable as Medmerry was seawatching might have been a better option after all. On the way home we called in at Fishbourne Creek which was very muddy (more so for Cookie than me) and a single Black-tailed Godwit was the only species of note.
Avocets and Mediterranean Gulls at Medmerry

aythya hybrid at Medmerry
male Tufted andn female Pochard seems its most likely parentage

Monday, 2 April 2018

Bank Holiday weekend in West Sussex (30 March-2 April)

Monday 2nd April. I seawatched from Widewater from 07:00-09:35, the wind was SE rather than the southerly forecast the previous evening and the rain much less although I was glad of the shelter provided by hut 32. Visibility wasn't great and most birds were quite distant. I saw 6 Red-throated Divers, a Great Crested Grebe on the sea, 7 Gannets, a flock of 29 Brent Geese east and then 32 west, 2 probable Teal in a scoter flock, male and female Garganey, about 400 Common Scoter (345E:11W:60 on sea), 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Oystercatchers, an adult Mediterranena Gull, 67 Sandwich and 7 Common Terns and a male Wheatear on the beach. What were probably the Gargeney arrived at about 08:30 from the west with the Red-breasted Mergansers but landed on the sea before I had  a decent view. At 08:47 two Garganey flew past, a male and female, the female identified 'by association'. What were presumably the same male and female were seen at Seaford at 09:48 (where I likely would have been had the BBC forecast not changed from SE to S). I went on to Shoreham Fort where in a brief visit 2 distant Red-throated Divers and about 60 Common Scoter (perhaps those seen earlioer on the sea off Widewater) flew East. Also there a single Purple Sandpiper below the wooden jetty and a superb male Firecrest and a Chiffchaff in a pine by the car-park (thanks to JMS). In the aftgernoon I visited my mum in Hove and saw a Chiffchaff and female Blackcap in her small front garden.
Wheatear at Widewater
welcome bnack
off Widewater
Firecrest at Shoreham Fort

Sunday 1st April. Cookie and I spent the morning visiting West Sussex Commons looking for Wood Lark although our most unusual sighting was a male Tufted Duck flying low across the A283 just north of the Adur flyover. We started at Coates where I used to see them regularly but drew a blank. The ground vegetation was very much shorter than I remembered, the dog walkers much more although admittedly I was adding to them and a herd of cows were grazing. We saw a pair of Mandarin flying over, 4 Coal Tits and 2 Yellowhammers. We tried Burton Black Pond where a pair of Egyptian Geese had 3 small goslings and the woodland produced a Marsh Tit and 2 Treecreepers.  At Lavington  Common/Plantation we eventually heard then saw 2 Wood Larks as well as 2 more Coal Tits and Yellowhammers but no Dartford Warblers, perhaps a result of February's very cold weather? In the evening I tried Shoreham Harbour for roosting gulls but there were few on the lock-gates and I couldn't pick anything out of the 500+ mainly Herring Gulls on Southwick Beach before they flew out to sea to roost.
Egyptian Goose and goslings, Burton Black Pond

Saturday 31st March. A very quiet day around Shoreham with 3 Sandwich Terns in and a
Sparrowhawk over Shoreham Harbour, 2 Reed and 3 Corn Buntings at Steepdown and Little Egret and a Sparrowhawk by the Adur but very few gulls.

no gulls on the Adur, I wonder why?
Friday 30th March. JK and I joined ME and NP at Splash Point Seaford at 07:00 and stayed on to 12:30. I saw 42 Red-throated Divers, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 41 Gannets, 25 Fulmars, 126 Brent Geese, 11 Shoveler, 506 Common Scoter, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, an Oystercatcher, 7 adult Little Gulls (at 11:51), 92 Common and 32 Black-headed Gulls, 88 Sandwich and 3 Common Terns and an unidentified auk. Virtually all were flying East.

Thursday 29th March (continued). After the morning's Iceland Gull at Harbour Way and the Eastonain and Norwegian colour-ringed Common Gulls on the Adur the previous evening I tried the gull roost there again. The pair of Shelduck was still present as was a first-winter Mediterranean Gull
Mediterranean Gull on the Adur


Thursday, 29 March 2018

Shoreham gulls and further afield (16-29 March)

Thursday 29th. I took Cookie to Shoreham Fort where on a rising tide we saw a Purple Sandpiper, 12 Turnstones and a displaying Meadow Pipit. We had called in at Harbour Way beforehand and seen nothing but decided to stop again on our way to Widewater. Good move as a 3CY Iceland Gull was present, presumably the bird seen there when I was in Ecuador and at Selsey before/after. Before I could tweet it ARK arrived and we watched the bird for half an hour or so before the rising tide pushed it off and it flew towards the harbour entrance. As Alan hadn't seen anything new at Widewater we came straight home.

Iceland Gull at Harbour Way, Shoreham
first views had me thinking of an albino it was so white but I remembered the bird seen here a five or six weeks earlier had been too
small-billed and round headed compared to nearby Herring Gulls
aged as a second-winter (3CY) due to very white plumage (above and below), pale yellowish eye and reduced black on the bill tip

its legs really were short although this image is a little misleading in that respect

it had a few browner tones to the upper-wing coverts and under-tail but otherwise it was clean white enough for a washing powder advert
no Kumlien's influence in its primaries

digiscoped images of the same bird came out much browner but did show its short legs

metal ring on a Herring Gull at Harbour Way. If it had a colour ring it had been lost
Wednesday 28th. A morning high tide visit with Cookie to Shoreham Fort produced a Purple Sandpiper, 11 Turnstones and a Rock Pipit. We went on to Widewater seeing the pair of Red-breasted Mergansers. Low tide was late afternoon and we went to the Adur seeing 2 Shelduck and three coloured-ringed gulls. One was a Herring Gull which isn't likely to be too interesting but the others were both Common Gulls, a 2CY ringed as a chick in Rogeland, Norway in July 2017 and the other an adult female ringed in a colony in Estonia in May 2011 and seen there each summer since. 
Purple Sandpiper at Shoreham Fort
Norwegian Common Gull JE304 on the Adur. It was ringed as a chick at Husoy, Karmoy, Rogland in southern Norway on 7 July 2017.
more interesting, in the same flock was Estonian Common Gull P8S7
she was ringed as an adult in a colony in Matsalu Nature Reserve (SW of Tallinn) in July 2011 and has been seen in the colony every year since.
P8S7 history, all the way from Estonia by return of email
Herring Gull NA8Z on the Adur. It looked like a North Thames ring but with the final letter Z rather than T.  
a pair of Shelduck on the Adur
Tuesday 27th. Two Long-tailed Tits in Stanmer Park.

Sunday 25th. Nessa was home and we went to Kingley Vale. We arrived late and it was surprisingly busy. Although 100 Hawfinches had been seen earlier in the day I saw just 6. In any other year 6 Hawfinches would have been brilliant but I was somewhat disappointed!
Megan and Cookie at the Bow Hill Trig Point
Saturday 24th. A very enjoyable seawatch from Splash Point, Seaford started slowly but picked up and kept going until early afternoon. DB, JK and I were there from 07:00-14:30 with others, notably ME and SL, present for much of that period (and earlier in ME's case). I saw Red-throated Diver 68E:6o/s, distant diver sp. 5E, Great Crested Grebe 6, Fulmar 5+, Gannet 31E, Cormorant 5E, Brent Goose 1900E (including a flock of 640 - DB counted his video of it), Shelduck 11E:7W, Gadwall 3E, Wigeon 2o/s, Teal 6E, Pintail 9E, Shoveler 43E, Eider 6E (13:35), Common Scoter 292E, Red-breasted Merganser 3o/s, Avocet 2E (I later missed another although not as gripping as the 20 seen on the Adur that morning by ARK!), Dunlin 24E, Curlew 6E, Bar-tailed Godwit 1E, Mediterranean Gull 1W (3CY), Black-headed Gull 44E, Common Gull some E (not counted), Little Gull 30E:1W (all very smart adults), Sandwich Tern 5E, auk sp. 6E, Razorbill 1E:2o/s, Guillemot 1o/s, Rock Pipit 2 (1 a candidate for littoralis) and Raven 1. DB and I called in at Newhaven Tidemills hoping for a Wheatear but had to settle for 3 Purple Sandpipers and 3 Stonechats.
part of the big Brent Goose flock approaching Splash Point
Eider passing Splash Point, Seaford

Purple Sandpiper on Newhaven Pier

Friday 23rd. Megan and I took Cookie to Cissbury where a singing Mistle Thrush was the highlight. Later we visited the Adur where we saw the male Wheatear, thanks to tweets from ARK and PJ. It was my first of the year which is usually something I very much look forward to but it was a rather flighty individual (at least when we were there) and soon disappeared so somewhat disappointing.
Oystercatchers on the Adur
my first Wheatear of the year was a bit of a disappointment
Wednesday 21st. A single Turnstone was all we could find on an early visit to Shoreham Fort. Later I took Cookie to the Burgh but with news the Iceland Gull was again at Goring Gap we diverted. We then drove to the triangle and walked up to the dewponds north of Peppering Barn. It was very mild and we stayed in the area until dusk seeing 2 Red Kites, 11 Red-legged and 9 Grey Partridges, 9 Lapwings (some displaying), 6 Sky Larks and a flock of 70 Fieldfares. No Short-eared Owls but Barn Owls made up for it with sighitngs at the lower dew pond (hunting for 20 minutes), beyond the upper dew pond (sat on a fence), Peppering Barn (flying N), the Triangle (flying S) and across the Arun. Certainly three, probably four and possibly five?
Cookie is not that keen on visiting Shoreham Harbour
First-winter (2CY) Iceland Gull at Goring Gap, it flew almost immediately after I arrived
someone was throwing out bread, fortunately Cookie was in the car or she'd have been there first
it had quite dark underparts and coarse undertail coverts
High Down in the background

Barn Owl at the Burgh
by the lower dew pool
very much one of my favourites
Monday 20th. A Great Crested Grebe on the sea off Southwick Beach on my way home. Nice it is now in daylight.